hope you enjoy reading! - mae :)


Aug 21, 2009

8 Stages of a Relationship

by Love Coach Rinatta Paries

All relationships go through predictable stages as they grow and develop. This is especially true for romantic relationships.

What stage is your relationship in? Or if you are not in a relationship, at what stage do your relationships always end, and why?

Even if your relationship seems at the peak of passion, or chaotic and out of control, at a stalemate or in equilibrium, it is at a predictable stage and there are more stages for it to reach.

Identifying the stages of your relationship and the attributes, stumbling blocks, and joys of each stage will tell you what to do about the stage you are in – or the stage you always get stuck in.

Stage 1: The Honeymoon
According to love songs and fairy tales, this stage is what love is supposed to be like. You meet, you connect, you fall in love. Everything seems right. Nothing seems out of place. Even if some things don’t seem right, you are full of hope they will work themselves out.

When it starts and how long it lasts: This stage can start from day one, but it’s usually in effect within the first month and can last between three and six months.

The joy: You feel more alive, more expanded, more in touch with life, beauty, joy, spirituality, and yourself. You have hope. You feel exhilarated, or at least excited. You have fun. These are wonderful feelings and should be celebrated and enjoyed.

The stumbling block: You may overlook whether your partner is truly compatible with you and rush into the depth of the relationship too soon and/or with the wrong person. And this, in turn, can mean the relationship may end abruptly and you may get seriously hurt.

What to do: You need to figure out if the person you are with is the right person for you. While you are figuring out if the person you are with is the right person for you, enjoy and have fun. Go very slowly and don’t count on a future together until you know the person is right for you. If you are right for each other, there is no reason to rush in — you will have a lifetime together. If you are wrong for each other, you will save yourself much heartache by not rushing in.

Stage 2: The Discovery
During this stage, the initial excitement of being together is subdued so you can actually discover who the other person really is. You and your partner begin to discover each other’s quirks and neurosis, and you uncover things that bug you about each other. You also begin to discover what you truly love and respect about one another. Your communication should deepen to a soulful level, where you begin to open up to each other.

When it starts and how long it lasts: This stage starts between three and six months and can last for a number of years, depending on how comfortable the couple is with self-disclosure and how fast or slowly the couple wants to progress in emotional intimacy.

The joy: The joy is the discovery: you are close enough to be able to glimpse the other person, his or her vulnerabilities, beauty, even quirks — which you may think are cute. The joy is also in seeing evidence that you have chosen the right person (if in fact you have such evidence), as well as in deep communication and budding emotional intimacy.

The stumbling block: You may begin to discover things that drive you crazy about each other. You may also discover that the two of you do things in very different fashions, or have vastly different interests. This is the time to choose in or out, and you may not want to choose.

What to do: This is THE time to figure out if you are with the right person. If you wait much longer, you are almost guaranteed heartbreak. This is not something you can just spontaneously know. While you are in the process, appreciate the person for who he or she is. Allow your heart to open to connection, without losing yourself.

Stage 3: The Commitment
This is the stage most singles fantasize about — the place where the relationship is settled, you know you are together, and you can finally relax. This is the stage most couples try to rush into and arrive at too soon. It is a wonderful stage, but rather than an end of a process, it is only the beginning. In many ways, a relationship does not truly begin until a couple commits to each other.

When it starts and how long it lasts: The Commitment Stage starts once each person decides to commit to either live together or get married, or to another form of deep commitment.

The joy: The joy is the sense of having arrived and no longer having to strive to win your partner. The joy is in the discovery of who your partner is when committed to you, because commitment brings out a change in the behavior of each person. The joy is having someone to watch movies with, cook dinner with, hang out with and do ordinary things with. The joy is having a person you love to share a life with.

The stumbling block: Many people begin to take each other for granted during this stage. Because they have arrived, they begin to pay less attention to the relationship and to their partner. And because one of the benefits we seek from a relationship is attention from our partner, when it lags, problems begin. The other stumbling block is that you may not pay enough attention to communication. Issues that need to be communicated may fall by the wayside because you are afraid of rocking the boat. These issues will come back to haunt the relationship later.

What to do: Make communication with each other a priority right now, as this is the best foundation for your relationship. Most people don’t know what true communication in a relationships means or how to actively implement it. Yet the success of the relationship, and continuing the happiness you now share, depend on both of your abilities to communicate with each other.

Stage 4: The Power Struggle
This is the stage at which most couples split up. The power struggle can be a gut-wrenching, painful place for a couple to be. This can be a time of arguments or silence, a time that truly will test the couple’s love. Couples at this stage wonder how they got here since it can come on unexpectedly out of nowhere. This can be a shocking stage for a couple.

When it starts and how long it lasts: This stage can start as soon as the commitment is solidified — when the couple makes a deep commitment, gets married, moves in together, etc., or soon thereafter. It can last until the couple breaks up, or for many years. Or the couple can find a way to work through this stage and move into the next stages of the relationship.

The joy: There is not much joy in this stage. The joy may be in the periods when you are not power struggling and are enjoying each other’s company. The other joy is in not arguing, or resolving an argument quickly, even some of the time.

The stumbling block: There are two prime stumbling blocks. One is that when couples get to this stage they do not realize it is a normal stage for all relationships, and that they can get through it. Instead, the couple thinks something is wrong – perhaps they are no longer compatible or they no longer love each other. The second stumbling block is that the couple can get stuck in this stage, with one or both partners being unwilling to move forward. This will eventually wear the relationship down until there will be nothing left.

What to do: There are no simple solutions to a power struggle in a relationship. It’s a complicated phenomenon that is inevitable. But it is resolvable. If you love each other, it is worth time and energy to resolve it. After all, if you don’t do it in this relationship, it will just happen in your next relationship. nce your communication has improved you need to know how to take away the issues that perpetuate the power struggle.

this point in your relationship you will follow one of two tracks. A couple who has negotiated the power struggle successfully will follow Track One, below. A couple who did not negotiate the power struggle successfully will follow Track Two, also below.

Track One: After the power struggle is resolved

Stage 5: Growth
It takes a lot of soul searching, self-discovery, intimacy work and deepened communication to break out of the power struggle and move beyond it. Now both partners must grow emotionally for the relationship to thrive. Those who are committed to their relationship do grow, no matter what may be required of them. Think of this period as your second chance to create the relationship you have always wanted with a partner you have always wanted to be with.

When it starts and how long it lasts: Growth is an ongoing state of any relationship, but it will be more intense at some times than at others. After a power struggle, the couple will experience a "growth spurt" with a period of intense growth lasting from six months to a year or longer.

The joy: The joy is in the results of the growth. The more each of you grows, the more intimacy you are able to share with one another. The more intimate you become, the more in love you become. The more love you feel for each other, the more joyful you become.

The stumbling block: Growth can be terrifying and confusing. You may know what you need to change in your behavior, but you may be afraid to make the changes. Or you may have no idea how to make the changes. The same thing may apply to your partner.

What to do: Find a way to grow — together and separately — on purpose. To keep your relationship vital, you both must mature and develop emotionally.

How do you grow on purpose, developing yourself emotionally? Begin by looking at how you tend to sabotage relationships. Each one of us has our own way of sabotaging love, hurting the one we love and ending up alone. To have power over this part of yourself, discover exactly what it is and where it comes from.

Once you discover what you do to impact your relationship, how do you continue to grow? Check your communication. Can you read each other well? Do you know how to listen to each other, how to communicate so that love permeates your relationship?

What else do you need to do to grow on purpose, helping your relationship thrive. Safeguard and grow your intimacy by eliminating the number one killer of intimacy and relationships – resentment.

Stage 6: The Second Honeymoon
It’s not that there will never be hard work or hard times again, but you have reached a new stage in your relationship – a stage where you cherish and treasure each other, appreciate the good, and accept the bad. You have bonded, connected, joined. Now this is what love is all about.

When it starts and how long it lasts: This stage starts sometime after the power struggle is over and can be intermittent or ongoing. In the best possible scenario it will last until the end.

The joy: It is almost all joy — the joy of connection at a level you have dreamed about. It is a joy to share your life with your partner in a deep way.

The stumbling block: The stumbling block is that you don’t expect your connection to be broken. It is solid yet flexible now and can allow for much stress and change. Yet, as you both are human, it will be broken at times.

What to do: Remember what brought you to this wonderful place and keep tending to your relationship by continuing to develop yourself and your relationship.
It is not unusual for couples at this stage to still have issues. The couple has learned how to forgive the issues, but the issues will still wear on the relationship. Handle the left-over issues and both of you will be happier, more satisfied. Don’t handle them, and in time you risk spiraling into the power struggle stage again.

Stage 7: "The Child"
A "child" can be a real child or it can be an idea, business, or passionate involvement on which both of you are focused. This can be as simple as the value you place on living your life as a couple, or as intricate as being involved in a cause or a political campaign. Or, of course, it can be parenthood with all of its complexities.

When it starts and how long it lasts: Ideally, the couple has a real, flesh-and-blood child only when they are through the power struggle and are into the second honeymoon. But for many couples, this stage happens throughout the relationship.

The joy: The joy is in sharing a third entity you created together or are both passionate about. The joy is learning and working together. The joy is also seeing different aspects of each other as you get passionately involved in the "other" entity.

The stumbling block: The stumbling block will be learning to work together and becoming a team. It can be hard to share responsibility. Often both partners will think their way of doing something is THE right way.

What to do: To make the job of “parenting” and teamwork easier on your relationship, learn to communicate, work together, negotiate, compromise and deal with disappointment effectively.

Stage 8: Life Crisis
Very few people live a charmed life without crises. Whether it is a job or career change, or a move to a new city or country, whether forced or willingly chosen, change feels like a life crisis. Whether it is declining health or a sudden illness of your spouse or another loved one, serious health issues can be life crises. If your property or your financial situation is threatened, dealing with and resolving the issues can feel like a life crisis. If you have far too many demands on you and not enough time or space to fulfill them, you may feel as if you are in a life crisis. What affects you deeply affects your relationship.

When it starts and how long it lasts: Life crises can happen at any time, but with care can get handled in a timely manner and not overtake the relationship. Life crises can also happen more than once in the course of a relationship as the couple grows, develops, and matures together.

The joy: If there is joy in a life crisis it is that by now you should be able to mobilize quickly as a team to deal with whatever situation arises. Often there is also a deeper bonding that occurs in crisis — and that can be a nourishing kind of joy as well.

The stumbling block: The nature of crisis is that there are many stumbling blocks, not the least of them being one or both partners being less available to the other for a time. This can be extreme, such as in an illness, or temporary and somewhat mild, such as in financial worries or the stress of starting a business. The difficult part is not having each other to always count upon just when you need each other most.

What to do: As much as possible, stay connected. Crises can be a time of increased tension, irritability and frustration. It’s easy to fall into the trap of taking tension out on your partner. At the same time, your expectations of your partner may be higher at this time, while he or she may be less available to respond to you. This can cause relationship-damaging resentments.

Beyond Stage 8: Life Happens
What happens after your relationship has touched on all eight stages? Life happens to a more mature, seasoned, happy and vibrant couple. You move together and separately through your life and know when you need to connect and when you need time apart. You know how to meet each other’s needs and seek increasingly deeper connection. Your relationship is the rock, the wellspring of love in your life.

Couples who did not negotiate the power struggle successfully will follow Track Two, described below.

Track Two: The aftermath of unresolved power struggle

Stage 5: Anger
If the power struggle is not negotiated successfully, at some point one or both partners give up struggling. They do not give up on the issues, however, or on their needs or their positions. They simply give up struggling. Because nothing has been resolved during or after the power struggle, they only have one choice - anger. Anger can look obvious and belligerent, or quiet and passive. Either way, it is unmistakable.

When it starts and how long it lasts: This stage starts after the power struggle has gone on too long. One or both partners have burned out from repeatedly not getting their needs met. This often does not start for years; but once it has started, it is very difficult to turn around.

The joy: There is not much joy in anger.

The stumbling block: One or both people can be depressed, numb and miserable - a difficult place from which to effect change. This stage can k*ll a relationship. This is one of the stages where people tend to have affairs.

What to do: You will not be able to successfully negotiate this stage without help.

Stage 6: Peace with a price
Even anger can burn out after a while, leaving behind nothing but silence and often indifference. The couple, if they have made it together this far, will typically live parallel but separate lives. They will still interact on necessary issues, such as child rearing and household responsibilities, but will share little else. They will finally have peace, no longer demanding anything from the other, but love and passion may be all but lost.

When it starts and how long it lasts: This stage can take years to develop and is often found in long-term marriages and relationships. Once in this stage, the couple normally does not grow out of it, unless something shakes them up.

The joy: At least there is peace.

The stumbling block: One or both partners may be having affairs, which makes reconciliation much more difficult. One or both may have built too much of a separate life to allow for change and improvement.

What to do: If you are in this stage and miserable, get help. There may still be hope, but you will not be able to make changes without help.

Stage 7: "The Child"
A "child" can be a real child or it can be an idea, business, or an involvement both people share. For a couple on track two such involvement or an actual child is rarely a choice. It is either something that binds them together out of circumstances, or it is something one partner devised in an attempt to keep the other one from leaving or straying too far.

When it starts and how long it lasts: For many couples, this stage can be the last attempt to save the relationship. This stage can happen any time the relationship is deeply threatened.

The joy: The joy is the actual entity you create together, especially if it is a child. This third entity holds the hope for changing your relationship dynamics.

The stumbling block: A child, or a mutual involvement, will not save the relationship without addressing the deeper unresolved issues from the power struggle.

What to do: Work through the underlying, unresolved issues in your relationship. You guessed it - in order to negotiate this stage successfully you have to go back and resolve your power struggle.

Stage 8: Life Crisis
Very few people live a charmed life without life crises. When your relationship is in ongoing crisis, actively or silently, change of even small magnitude can feel like a life crisis. True life crises, such as health or financial issues can be downright overwhelming.

When it starts and how long it lasts: Life crises can happen at any time.

The joy: If there is joy in a life crisis it is the chance to shake your relationship up, and perhaps remind each of you how important the other one is or used to be. It maybe your last chance to save your relationship.

The stumbling block: Because you are already in crisis, any additional crisis runs a risk of immobilizing you. You may no longer be able to function within the relationship. You or your partner may simply leave.

What to do: You should use this time as an opportunity to support each other and reconnect. In order to do this genuinely, you must still resolve all of the unresolved issues between you. This is difficult when there is a life crisis looming, but necessary if the two of you will survive as a couple. One of you might need to begin this work by him- or herself and bring the other one along midway.

Beyond Stage 8: Life Happens, But Separately
What happens to a couple who never resolves the power struggle? They may go their separate ways. They may stay together but effectively live separate lives, and be involved in other relationships. One of both may stay and suffer silently, holding on to the hope that something will change.

If you are in this stage, you need to learn how to make yourself happy regardless of your relationship status. You need to learn how to deeply take care of yourself and how to work through all of the negative feelings left over from years of struggling in your relationship.

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